What works and doesn’t work in a book series?

I’m in the process of developing a series (maybe two), which has prompted me to ask the question, what works and what does not, in a book series.  Since its series theme week here at Darker Temptations, I’m sharing the thoughts I’ve been tossing around on the issue.

I love a good series.  When done well, they reel me in, because I get so invested in the world and the characters in it, that I can survive a bad book or story and am willing to forgive a transgression or two or three (I will give up eventually) but may come back years later.   Here are the things I identified that work for me.

Characters who own your heart (but their stories must deliver)

Take some of the most popular.  J.R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood.  By the end of the first book, Wrath and Beth’s story,  I was in love with all the brothers, wanting for them to finally find their happy ending.  So I read, a lot of them, and enjoyed some of them.  But I found the world to be only so, so.  When Phury’s story disappointed, it was almost over for me. Phury had my heart breaking in half through so many books with his unrequited love for his twin’s love  that sometimes I read many of the books for him alone.  When he was matched with Cormia who I found to be pretty bland, like his story, I drifted away.  I may go back, but with the series, it was the people, more than the world.

A World that Draws You in

My absolute favorite series, also one of the more popular, is Nalini Singh’s Psy/changeling world.  I just love the universe she’s built, the interplay between the various changeling packs, the changelings and the Psy, and the humans who are slowly being integrated it all.  Each grouping is a world within a world, with its own well-crafted rules and relationships.  Not all the stories worked for me, but the world she created keeps drawing me back and there are still a lot of characters I want to see matched up with their HEA. Vasic, Aiden, and Alice anyone?  I’m hooked and I’ll stick with it to the end.

Original, Creative Plots in Each Story that Move the Whole Series Forward

Another thing to watch out for that does not work for me is  the reusing of story lines across a series. Lora Leigh’s breed series hooked me into paranormal erotic romance so I naturally turned to her Elite Ops to check it out.  Each book had more or less the same plot as the one before. I read three and stopped.  I’m also not a really big fan of her female characters either but that’s another post.

Closure (within a reasonable period of time)

And finally, and this may be my issue, but the series has to come to an ending with full closure.  Harry Potter and a series organized to end in seven years and seven installments is public relations brilliance and reader heaven for me.  I stopped reading the Breeds (although I will read Cassie’s story when it comes out)  and never made it past the first book in Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series because there were already 20+ waiting afterwards and they were still coming.  I need a series to conclude.  And a planned ending is all the better, because it makes each book all the sweeter.

What about you all. What works and does not work for you in a series?


Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. Meet Jocelyn, a single mom who gets a second chance at love in her newest book Next Move available from Ellora’s Cave and Amazon

About Sabrina Garie

Writer, reader, explorer, chauffeur (oops, I meant mom)

Posted on August 6, 2013, in Sabrina Garie and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great post! I am also hooked on Nalini Singh’s book. I can’t wait for the next book, which I believe will be Vasic’s story. I don’t mind a never-ending series, although I can see where it can be annoying. As long as the characters and the world keep me engaged I will go on (lol, I have read and re-read all the Anita Blake books as well as each and every J.D. Robb book;). I will stop when the book no longer matches my expectations or give me that shiver down the back when I finish.

  2. It does seem like Vasic will be next. My need for endings seems to be personal, many people are content with series that endure. After waiting and waiting and waiting for George R.R. Martin, I want to make sure the key stories wrap up, so I like to see where things are going.

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